For self-defence, Bengaluru cops bank on rusty British-era rifles

For self-defence, Bengaluru cops bank on rusty British-era rifles

Overworked, under-armed and lacking in training and fitness, they are getting clobbered on the streets

For self-defence, Bengaluru cops bank on rusty British-era rifles

The incidents show up their vulnerability, besides their lack of training and skill. A worried police commissioner said on Saturday his men should shoot at those attacking them.

In all cases reported over the week, policemen failed to judge the aggression of those they were out to discipline, former Karnataka intelligence chief B Gopal Hosur said.

And that's not all. The rifles and lathis constables carry afford them little protection.

Bengaluru constables still lug around a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle, introduced into the British army in 1895. And at critical moments, they have to recall their skills from years ago.

They are trained for nine months when they are recruited, and it ends there. The department gives them no regular target practice.

Also, the rifle has a range of about 1.5 km-2km, which is not useful in cities as the assailants are usually present at a close range.

"Our constables carry a nine-kg rifle all night," Hosur told DH. "It is a pain." He recommends lighter, more modern weapons.

"Not just constables, but even our sub-inspectors are scared to use their service weapons as they face tough departmental inquiries," he said.

Home minister Ramalinga Reddy isn't so sure about that line of argument. "The weapons are given for their protection," he said. "They should go ahead and use them when their life is at risk."

City Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar said many criminals turn out unruly, violent, drunk and high on drugs. "Constables must be cautious. If they feel they can't handle a gang, they should call for additional staff," he said.

Zero experience

A head-constable attached to the Indiranagar police station said he had never used the .303 rifle given to him.

"It is too heavy. I don't know of any colleagues who have used their rifles even once during their service," he said.

A .303 is given to one of two constables on night duty. Constables who work during the day say they are even more defenceless.

"Even small-time criminals carry revolvers. But we just get a lathi to protect the public and ourselves," a constable said.

Fitness is a concern, too. Many policemen above 40 suffer from a host of ailments and don't exercise.

A constable attached to the Ashok Nagar police station said, "Our day shift is 8.30 am to 8.30 pm, and night shift 8.30 pm to 8.30 am. When do we even exercise?"